News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Donor Doctors the Main Reason for Shortage

12 September 2005

Organ Donor Doctors the Main Reason for Shortage

The headlines in the major papers today highlight just how bad New Zealand’ organ donation situation is.

Recently the government announced that should they return to power they would implement a National Organ Donor Register.

I have come a long way in my ‘one man campaign’ for a reform in the organ donor system over the past three years. During that time I have been told “I am wrong, there is nothing wrong with the present system.” Annette King wrote to me suggesting that I don’t write to her anymore as it would be pointless. Organ donor officials said my campaign could lower the donor rates further. And a highly placed official told me that if “I did not stop my campaign; I may find that my daughter goes to the bottom of the transplant waiting list.”

Despite the ‘veiled’ threats, which I must admit shocked me into thinking that maybe I should desist. I decided to continue harder than ever. Now not only is the Minister of Health back on talking terms with me, but in her media releases and interviews gives me full credit for the changes that are happening (A new organ donor register, a new National Organ Donor Service and compensation for ‘live’ donors.)

I note also that since I started my campaign that donor rates have gone up by 8%.

All these initiatives will be pointless unless the organ donor officials/doctors get off their high horses, stop being arrogant and realise that their ‘morals’ are no higher than anyone else’s.

On the announcement of a new register, the head of the Liver Transplant Service said it would not work, and then qualifies why it won’t work by saying “because we won’t use it.” And then points out that they never use the driving licence system either to check if someone has indicated whether they wish to be a donor. They prefer to let the families decide if that person should be a donor or not, irrespective of what that person’s wishes were.

At a public meeting the same transplant doctor announced that; “even if the law was changed so that family could not veto a donor’s wishes, we would ignore that law and continue to go with the family wishes.” How arrogant is that?

It is not up to the doctors to decide they know better than the individual and transfer that person’s rights over to another. What happened to informed consent and autonomy?

What the organ donor officials don’t tell you is that when they steal that right off you and give it to families instead that it isn’t just families that can veto your wish. It can be absolutely anyone who decides to phone the hospital and object. If there is just you, no living relation whatsoever to contact and you are fatally injured in an accident, if they bother to check your licence and note that in fact you have put donor on your licence you will still not become an organ donor – Why? Because there is no family to ask. Even though it’s specified on your licence as your wish.

I am curios that in the many interviews I have seen with the transplant doctors that they keep saying “most families do want to follow the donor’s wishes.” And “it’s not usual for families to veto the donor’s wishes.” Though they always steer well clear of giving you the actual numbers.

So it may come as some surprise to you to find out that families vetoed the request for organs in nearly 50% of cases last year…

Another ‘scare mongering’ statement that has been made several times is “if we ever took the organs against the wishes of the family, that would be the last set of organs we would ever get.”

Well that may be the case for ‘that’ patient, as they’ve already taken them, but if families could not veto the donor’s wishes how could there be negative publicity in the media stemming from the family? If the family tried to veto the donor’s wish and it was refused they could go to the media and say “they wouldn’t let me veto my second cousin’s wish to be a donor.” Why would the media be interested? Wouldn’t they say, “Well why should you, and it is the law.”

It is interesting to note that in documents released under the Official Information Act which the Ministry of Health did not want to release, (it had to go to the Ombudsman before we got hold of them.) It gave details of meetings of the Review of the Human Tissue Act 1964 which deals with organ donation. From the documents of these meetings it shows that the entire group of people who control organ donation in this country voted for ‘Status Quo’ when it comes to the organ donation system. i.e. they want no change.

Therefore I feel it is a bit rich of these people to go whining in the national newspapers today that they have to use old and diseased organs because there is such a shortage!

If they spent more time thinking outside of the square rather than their continual efforts to dumb down ideas for improving organ donor rates we would get a lot more donors. We have tried it their way for the past 20 years and we have the lowest rates in the Western World. It’s time to try another way.

The promotion of donation should be taken off them completely; after all they are in the medical profession, not marketing. It should be passed over to a leading marketing company to promote people to sign up on the register.

It’s about time they got out of the dark ages of thinking they are better, and know what’s best for everyone and come to terms with the fact that they are just the ‘plumbers.’ They are there to do the human plumbing. It’s up to the people to decide what happens to their organs not them.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis Review: From Free Press to Fancy Dress - Spielberg's The Post

Stephen Spielberg's The Post is an opportune newsroom drama in which a corrupt Republican president wages war against the "liberal media," as its plucky proprietor risks economic and legal ruin to bring the Pentagon Papers to public light. Its true protagonist is publisher Katharine Graham, a stringently diplomatic businesswoman, reluctantly compelled to take an overtly political stance in the interests of democracy and freedom of the press. More>>

Howard Davis Review: The Black Dog of Empire - Joe Wright's Darkest Hour'

On the eve of England's contorted efforts to negotiate its ignominious retreat from Europe and the chaotic spectacle of the Tory party ratifying its undignified departure from a union originally designed to prevent another World War, there has been a renewed appetite for movies about 1940. More>>

Howard Davis Review: Anger Begets Anger - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

For fans of what Ricky Gervais termed "number movies" (Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Ocean's 11, Se7en), Martin McDonagh's latest offering will be a welcome addition to the roster. The Irish playwright turned screenwriter and director has produced another quirky and darkly comic tragedy that evolves around the futility of anger and grief, retribution and revenge. More>>

Howard Davis: Sexting in George Dawe's Genevieve - Part I

Te Papa's permanent collection includes an enormous oil painting by the English artist George Dawe called Genevieve (from by a poem by S.T. Coleridge entitled 'Love') that was prominently featured in the 2013 exhibition Angels & Aristocrats. Compare the massive immensity of the bard's gorgeously gilded harp with the stubby metallic handle of the Dark Knight's falchion, both suggestively positioned at crotch-level. Dawe's enormous canvas invokes a whole history of blushing that pivots around a direct connection to sexual arousal. More>>


Ethnomusicology: Malian ‘Desert Blues’ Revolutionaries To Storm WOMAD

Malian band Tinariwen (playing WOMAD NZ in March 2018) are a true musical revolutionaries in every sense. Active since 1982, these nomadic Tuareg or ‘Kel Tamashek’ (speakers of Tamashek) electric guitar legends revolutionised a traditional style to give birth to a new genre often called ‘desert blues’. They also have a history rooted deeply in revolution and fighting for the rights of their nomadic Tamashek speaking culture and people. More>>

Gordon Campbell: Best New Music Of 2017

Any ‘best of list’ has to be an exercise in wishful thinking, given the splintering of everyone’s listening habits... But maybe… it could be time for the re-discovery of the lost art of listening to an entire album, all the way through. Just putting that idea out there. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland